KESTON NEWS SERVICE: 20.00, 16 November 2001.
Reporting on violations of religious liberty and on religion in communist
and post-communist lands.
______________________________________

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS FINED THOUSANDS OF
DOLLARS (16 Nov). More than forty people who were detained when
police raided a service of the Word of Life Church in the Turkmen capital
Ashgabad on 15 November (see KNS 15 November) have been released,
but only after paying fines totalling more than forty million manats (7,700
US dollars or 5,400 UK pounds at the official exchange rate; 2,000 USD
or 1,420 GBP at the street rate). Sources in Ashgabad told Keston News
Service that although the fines varied from individual to individual, most
paid the equivalent of the average monthly wage in Turkmenistan. A
police inspector admitted to Keston that the group had been arrested and
then released, but declined to discuss why the meeting in a private home
had been raided. No other official was prepared to explain why the church
service was raided.

II. KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC
HOSPITAL (16 Nov). A young Baptist leader, Asylbek Nurdanov, from
the town of Kazalinsk in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in
southern Kazakhstan, was freed from psychiatric hospital today (16
November), the US-based Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston
News Service. His release came after a Baptist delegation, including
Pastor Peter Peters from Russia, visited him in the in the town of Kyzyl-
Orda where he had been held for nearly a week. He had been taken there
forcibly on 10 November by police, who allegedly put pressure on his
parents to write a statement complaining of his activities (see KNS 13
November).

I. TURKMENISTAN: PROTESTANTS FINED THOUSANDS OF
DOLLARS

by Felix Corley and Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

More than forty people who were detained when police, KNB security
police and local administration officials raided a service of the Word of
Life Church in the Turkmen capital Ashgabad on 15 November have been
released, but only after paying fines totalling more than forty million
manats (7,700 US dollars or 5,400 UK pounds at the official exchange
rate; 2,000 USD or 1,420 GBP at the street rate). Sources in Ashgabad
told Keston News Service on 16 November that although the fines varied
from individual to individual, most paid some one million manats (190
USD or 135 GBP at the official exchange rate; 50 USD or 35 GBP at the
street rate), the average monthly wage in Turkmenistan. A police
inspector admitted to Keston that the group had been arrested and then
released, but declined to discuss why the meeting in a private home had
been raided. No other official was prepared to explain why the church
service was raided.

All 41 people detained at the evening meeting at the home of Olga
Ryzhkova were released during the night, but told to reappear this
morning (16 November) at 9 a.m. at the hakimlik (administration) of the
Niyazov district of Ashgabad, where Ryzhkova's home is located. "After
being interrogated, each was fined a sum of between 250,000 manats and
1,000,000 manats," one source in Ashgabad told Keston. "The authorities
have taken all their passports, and threatened that they will not give them
back until the fine is paid. Some ladies just fled from the local
administration building - because the harassment during interrogation
was bad. The authorities tried to chase after them, but the ladies got home
safely." None of the hakimlik officials was prepared to identify
themselves to those being fined.

The fines on the Protestants - some of whom have already been fined for
their religious activity - were imposed under Articles 205 and 178 of the
administrative code. Article 205, which dates back to the Soviet era,
punishes "violation of the law on religious associations", while Article
178 punishes repeat offenders.

One report from Ashgabad says the authorities threatened to confiscate
Ryzhkova's flat in punishment for hosting the meeting. There are also
fears that a woman in her fifties who is an in-patient at Ashgabad cancer
hospital, Tamara Nikolayevna (last name unknown), might lose her place
in hospital in retaliation for attending the service, her first visit to a
meeting of the church. Others who attended fear losing their jobs or being
expelled from Ashgabad.

Contacted on 16 November, Dushen Saparpaev, inspector of the police of
Niyazov district of Ashgabad, refused to give Keston any other details
apart from confirming the Protestants' arrest and subsequent release.
Asked whether the detentions had been in accordance with the law he
referred all enquiries to his boss, who was not present. A duty officer at
the Niyazov district police station had already told Keston that they do
not give out information by telephone.

On 16 November Keston also contacted the hakim's office at the Niyazov
district hakimlik, whose officials had participated in the raid as well. An
official who refused to give his name also declined to give any
information by telephone. "If they were detained there must have been a
reason," he declared, before putting the phone down.

A group of church members visited the government-sponsored National
Institute for Democracy and Human Rights in Ashgabad in the wake of
the fines to seek ways to pursue their complaints about their treatment.

No Protestant churches in Turkmenistan have been allowed to register
under the country's restrictive religion law and registration regulations.
The Word of Life church is one of a number of Protestant congregations
functioning in Ashgabad without registration, despite the fact that the
government considers unregistered religious activity to be illegal. (END)

II. KAZAKHSTAN: BAPTIST RELEASED FROM PSYCHIATRIC
HOSPITAL

by Igor Rotar, Keston News Service

A young Baptist leader, Asylbek Nurdanov, from the town of Kazalinsk
in Kyzyl-Orda region close to the Aral Sea in southern Kazakhstan, was
freed from psychiatric hospital today (16 November), the US-based
Russian Evangelistic Ministries told Keston News Service. His release
came after a Baptist delegation, including Pastor Peter Peters from
Russia, visited him in the in the town of Kyzyl-Orda where he had been
held for nearly a week. He had been taken there forcibly on 10 November
by police, who allegedly put pressure on his parents to write a statement
complaining of his activities (see KNS 13 November).

Speaking to Keston, local Baptists questioned whether it was legal to send
Nurdanov to psychiatric hospital in the first place. Asked to comment on
the case, Terek Shotayev, the public prosecutor of the department for
monitoring the activity of state agencies, at the public prosecutor's office
in Kyzyl-Orda region, told Keston: �This is a very serious matter.
Various international organizations have already shown an interest in
Nurdanov�s fate. Today in particular I have been seeing a delegation of
Baptists from Moscow. We have already begun to investigate how far it
was correct to use force to send Nurdanov for treatment in a psychiatric
hospital and this investigation will be completed very shortly.�

Anatoly Nigai, head doctor of the town psychiatric hospital of Kyzyl
Orda, in a telephone conversation with Keston, said: �Nurdanov was
brought to our hospital by members of the town police force of Kazalinsk.
He was assigned a place at the hospital on the basis of a statement by his
father, who considers that his son�s mental state has gravely changed
during the past year. At reception, Nurdanov behaved in such a way, that
I personally started to have doubts about his mental health. For example,
he declared that he �was hearing the voice of Christ in his heart�.
Nevertheless, I understand perfectly that Nurdanov�s case is special. My
own mother is a religious believer and I understand the feelings of pious
people quite well. A delegation of Baptists from Moscow has already
been to see me. I am now looking carefully at the literature they gave me.
Nurdanov is already being examined by a group of independent
psychologists, and if his health is judged to be normal, we will
immediately release him.�

Nigai denied the assertion made by Keston, that according to the laws of
Kazakhstan, a person could only be forcibly placed in a psychiatric
hospital if a court had declared his behaviour to be dangerous to those
around him. �According to our laws, in order to place someone in a
psychiatric hospital, it is enough to have a statement [of consent] from his
nearest relatives. In addition, it cannot be excluded that Nurdanov�s
behaviour was dangerous to those around him, as he used to preach to
minors,� he told Keston.

Chair of the Almaty Helsinki committee, Ninel Fokina, told Keston on 16
November: �In Nurdanov�s case, serious violations of the law were
permitted. If a mentally ill person is dangerous, then he certainly can be
placed in a psychiatric hospital for a short time (until a court confirms
that he really is dangerous to those around him). However, in such a
case, a doctor must visit the patient at home and certify that the
psychiatric patient is dangerous to society. But Nurdanov was taken to
the psychiatric hospital by members of the police force. In addition, the
fact that Nurdanov was preaching to minors is not evidence that he was a
danger to those around him�. (END)